Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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My never wanting to see any of the Fast & Furious movies seems vindicated.

Paul Walker and a fellow driver died wrapping a sports car around something very solid while illegally racing on Los Angeles County streets. Walker has been canonized for this. If he had managed to kill bystanders I’d like to think he wouldn’t have been.

The Lad and I refer to flicks of this kind as Big Dumb Action Movies. My theory is that my brain makes it through unscathed if I just check it at the door on the way in.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE: Inspried by ST:TNG's "All Good Things" (as well as the Prophets from ST;DS9's "Emmisary"), last night we watched Slaughterhouse Five, Tracy for the first time. (She guessed the end halfway through, but didn't complain too much because of the context.) I read the book in high school, then in college I wrote a lesson plan to teach it in a class. When I became a teacher I used that lesson plan to teach it to my college-bound juniors and seniors... along with Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings... (What can I say? I was into banned books.) 

I don't know if watching the movie has inspired Tracy to read the book, but it's inspired me to read it again.

Doctor Hmmm? said:

The Lad and I refer to flicks of this kind as Big Dumb Action Movies. My theory is that my brain makes it through unscathed if I just check it at the door on the way in.

That's a policy I usually follow when watching Big Dumb Action Movies, and I certainly should have while watching the entire Fast and the Furious oevure. The thing is, the first three weren't too crazy. Sure, they had lots of auto racing and chase scene and a fair amount of gun play. But with the fourth and succeeding films, they started playing "Can you top THIS?" with the stunts.

To wit: Not only do they crash a $3 million sports car through the upper floors of three of the Etihad Towers in Fast & Furious 6, they have a helicopter gunship shoot up half of Los Angeles and take out a parking garage. And the gunship gets destroyed when Dom Torretto jumps up and hangs a bag of grenades on it, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (as Diplomatic Security Services Agent Luke Hobbs) shoots at it with a .50 caliber machine gun scavenged from another helicopter that crashed. Then in The Fate of the Furious, not only do the villains take remote control of every car in town and drop dozens of them on the Russian Minister of Defense's limo, the final third of the movie has the good guys in the Arctic, racing a submarine(!) that the bad guys have armed with nuclear missiles -- and somewhere in there, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is alternately shooting, strangling and stabbing wave after wave of henchmen while protecting a baby in a car seat.

Evidently, there is nothing too big and too dumb for a Fast and the Furious movie.

Oh yeah. F&F stayed this side of sane -- unlikely, but still in the same universe as the rest of us -- until #4. Then it ceased to give a rip about the laws of physics or, really, anything other than "How cool is THIS!?!?!?"

I do not know how I completely missed The Station Agent, a low key Indie drama/comedy from 2003 starring Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, and Raven Goodwin, but it's a perfect low-key film about a man who inherits a small town train depot-- and escaping loneliness. or trying.

I liked The Station Agent a lot. The director later went on to win an Oscar for Spotlight, right? I'm pretty much happy to see whatever Tom McCarthy directs at this point. (Win Win was another good one.)

On a completely different tack, I watched Ted Geoghegan's Mohawk on Netflix the other night -- a slightly supernatural action thriller set during the War of 1812. Calvin -- one member of a polyamorous thruple (a Mohawk man and woman, and a British man) -- starts a conflict that breaks the Mohawk neutrality in the war, and sets American hunters on them. It's pretty brutal, and some of the acting seems more "modern" than you might expect in a period piece, but man, is it effective. There's a little bit of exposition when it begins, but as soon as the action hits -- and it is soon -- it doesn't let up. It's a cycle of violence, and it leaves no one unscathed. And Ezra Buzzington, as the leader of the hunters, is relentless and terrifying. 

I think I've mentioned that I'm taping a bunch of old movies from TMC that I've heard about and never seen. Last night I queud up one that I was kind of jazzed about: Ride the High Country,

I'd never heard about it before, but it was directed by Sam Peckinpah and starred Randolph Scott as an old gunhand. TMC touted it as a classic.

"Wow," I thought. "That sorta sounds like The Wild Bunch." Which, of course, is an awesome movie. It starred William Holden as the aging gunslinger, but he's in the same neighborhood.

Turns out Ride the High Country is pretty terrible. Cliched, implausible and with a chintzy 1960s TV soundtrack. (I recognized some bits from Star Trek. Come to think of it, Mariette Hartley is in this movie, and she was in a memorable Star Trek as well.) 

I haven't got much good to say about it. 

LADY SINGS THE BLUES: I finally talked Tracy into watching this one with me, but it wasn’t as good as I had remembered. I think it’s mostly factual but also highly fictionalized. Much of what I have learned about Billie Holiday since I first saw this film wasn’t even mentioned. I was first introduced to Billie Holiday as a freshman in college via a class titled “Jazz, Pop and Rock,” an entry level course. I was in Marching Mizzou and didn’t need the music credit (which is why most freshmen took it), but I was interested in the subject matter. The course had two professors: one for “jazz” and one for “rock.” I was impressed by the music the jazz professor was able to dig up. Then, years later, I found “The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz” in a used record store (back when you could only buy it through the Smithsonian if you were a member) and realized that set comprised his entire syllabus! But I digress. Most of what I want to say about Lady Day would be better served on the “What Are You Listening To?” discussion.

The movie is a good introduction to Billie Holiday, but what i really need to watch is a good documentary about her life. Anyone know of one?

A documentary is apparently in production right now, and there was one I saw on PBS in the 1980s. I seem to recall it being good, but I knew almost nothing about her then, other than a few songs.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

LADY SINGS THE BLUES: I finally talked Tracy into watching this one with me, but it wasn’t

The movie is a good introduction to Billie Holiday, but what i really need to watch is a good documentary about her life. Anyone know of one?


I watched this last night not knowing what to expect.  This is basically a horror movie based on the origin story of Superman and falls somewhere between Supes and the Maximortal.  Very gory and nihilistic but definitely entertaining in spots.

I started watching Jaws 2 last night. It's a masterclass in how brilliance ain't easy.

I think I saw Jaws 2 before I saw Jaws when I was a kid; it was in theaters in 1978, when I would have been almost 8. I doubt If I'd seen the first Jaws, it would have been on TV. (I'm sure I read the MAD parody by then, and heard the song "Mister Jaws" on Dr. Demento.) For a long time I thought I was conflating scenes in Jaws 2 with Jaws, but there were a few I thought were in Jaws 2 (notably the scene where the kids pull the prank with the fin on their back) that was actually in the original. And there isn't much in Jaws 2 that strikes me as memorable for anything other than the way its shamefully trying to re-enact a scene from Jaws. 

And to think, this is the second-best Jaws movie! How deep IS this barrel, anyway?

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